Unification Wars (30th Millennium)
The Adeptus Custodes, known as the Legio Custodes until after the Horus Heresy, is the Imperial Adepta responsible for guarding the Imperial Palace and the physical body of the Emperor of Mankind. They are a group of 10,000 genetically-engineered superhumans who are even more potent in combat than the Adeptus Astartes and who serve as the Emperor's personal guardians and praetorian bodyguard. Since the Emperor's internment in the Golden Throne following the Horus Heresy ten millennia ago, they have taken a far more limited role in the Imperium of Man. They almost never leave Terra and only very rarely leave the Imperial Palace. Only the Adeptus Custodes decide who may enter the Sanctum Imperialis of the Emperor at the heart of the Inner Palace, and when they may do so.
The Custodes were founded by the Emperor of Mankind at an unknown date during the Unification Wars on Terra in the 30th Millennium following the Age of Strife. During that time they had yet to be given the title of Adeptus Custodes and were instead known as the Emperor's Companions and later on as the Legio Custodes.
They are the "Dread Guardians," and the only living beings permitted to walk beside the Emperor. The Custodes were the greatest group of physiologically and psychologically-enhanced troops the Emperor had ever created, ten thousand strong and the best trained, most disciplined and most vigilant watchmen in the Imperium. Now ensconced deep within the Sanctum Imperialis on Terra, they watch over the corporeal body of the Emperor.
Before the Horus Heresy, a unit of Custodes known as the Emperor's Companions used to accompany the Emperor at all times, even when he retired to his private chambers. During the Great Crusade, these great warriors always kept a contingent with the Emperor for his protection, but also travelled individually as his personal envoys. Even in the days before the Heresy, it was a rare and blessed thing to see a member of the Legio Custodes, and due to the confinement of the Emperor to the Golden Throne, it has become an almost unthinkable event. Even during the Battle of Terra, a group of Custodes joined the Emperor when he made his assault upon Horus' flagship, the Battle Barge Vengeful Spirit.
Since the death of Horus and the mortal wounds he inflicted upon the Emperor, the Legio Custodes, renamed the Adeptus Custodes after the Reformation of the Imperium conducted by the Ultramarines Primarch Roboute Guilliman in the 31st Millennium, have taken a more limited role by acting solely as the protectors of the physical form of the Emperor on Terra and the primary providers of security for the Imperial Palace.
The Adeptus Custodes were instrumental in the ending of the rule of the High Lord Goge Vandire during the Age of Apostasy in the 36th Millennium. It was the actions of a few members of the Adeptus Custodes, utilising secret passages within the Imperial Palace known only to themselves, that brought the Sisters of Battle, then known as the Brides of the Emperor, to fully realise the acts of base treason perpetrated by Vandire. After their leader, Alicia Dominica, was brought before the Emperor Himself by the Custodes through the secret passages of the Palace, she returned and executed Vandire personally for his apostasy and betrayal of the Emperor.
The Adeptus Custodes is a department of the Adeptus Terra, the overall Imperial government and bureaucracy, but its members are answerable only to the Emperor and their own officers. The Adepta's commanding officer carries the title of Captain-General and Chief Custodian, and due to the importance of the Adeptus Custodes in the governing of the Imperium since they always stand the closest to the Emperor, the Captain-General often holds a position amongst the ruling High Lords of Terra on the Senatorum Imperialis.
The Custodes are slightly larger and stronger than even the superhuman Space Marines. The uniforms of the Custodians are traditional but effective: boots, leather breeches and long black cloaks. Their torsos are naked and corded with tattooed muscle. Their tall, brazen helmets, ominous and all-enclosing, give them a threatening and impersonal appearance; ancient and ornate, the helmets incorporate advanced protective equipment and communicators. Originally the traditional colour of the Custodes was red; following the confinement of the Emperor after the defeat of Horus, it was changed to black, the colour of mourning. The weapons carried by the Custodes resemble spears, but in fact they are laser weapons built into the shape of spears. The spears are built to resemble the original guardian spears, carried by the Adeptus Custodes before the Emperor's confinement. The guardian spear is closely associated with the Custodes, and is depicted on their banners and badges.
Custodes Creation and Training
Although the Custodes were among the first genetically-modified warriors to be created by the Emperor during the Unification Wars of the late 30th Millennium, they were never intended to be part of a conquering army; such a role was to be filled by the later Legions of the Astartes. This is revealed both in their mindset and training: while Custodians share a genetic kinship with one another, they do not foster the same spirit of almost religious brotherhood that is instilled within the Astartes in order to function together as a unit. Indeed, each Custodian prepares and inspects his wargear individually, rather than as part of a unit ritual. The individuality of each Custodes is further promoted by the fact that the genetic engineering processes required to produce them is not as refined or as simple as that of the Astartes and thus they are not "mass-produced" as the Astartes are; meaning that each Custodian is a unique investment for the Imperium who undergoes a genetic enhancement process that has been specially adapted to his particular physiology and genome. If the Space Marines are the result of an "assembly line" process of genetic modification and enhancement, the Custodians are custom models. One ritual that the Custodes do share in common is the recognition of mighty deeds, manifested in the awarding of individual names, which are added to the Custodian's title to represent the actions he has performed in service to the Emperor. For instance, Constantin Valdor obtained 932 names prior to the assault of Horus upon Terra. Such names were inscribed onto the inside of the warrior's Power Armour as marks of individual pride. The training of the Custodes also differed immensely from that of the Space Marines, since they were intended to be bodyguards rather than soldiers. It is clear from their participation in the Blood Games -- a series of war games in which Custodians seek to identify all of the possible ways that the Imperial Palace could be infiltrated or assaulted -- that Custodians are trained in the arts of assassination, both improvised and professional, in order to counter possible attempts on the life of the Emperor. It is common for several Custodians to be on detached duty for these Blood Games so that the Adepta remains vigilant against developing threats to the Emperor's person. Furthermore it is clear that the Custodes are also well-versed in the political etiquette of Terra, and have been known to act outside of Imperial law, to infiltrate influential Imperial noble houses and to investigate any potential threats. This aspect of the Custodian mindset is advantageous, given that the Captain-General of the order often shares a seat with the High Lords of Terra in the Senatorum Imperialis and this allows him to navigate the political maneuverings of the Imperium's various Adepta, while still remaining an awe-inspiring warrior.
Role and Capabilities
The similarities in form between the Adeptus Astartes and the Adeptus Custodes indicate the two groups may be related, although it is unknown whether the members of the Adeptus Custodes undergo the rigorous genetic change in the same way as the members of the Adeptus Astartes. Several fragmentary Imperial records indicate that creation of a Custodian is a long and arduous process, utterly different from the creation process for a standard Astartes and much costlier, thus their relatively smaller numbers in the galaxy compared to the Space Marines. The Custodes have the final word on security in the Imperial Palace, and even the High Lords of Terra are subservient to them within its walls.
The Custodes are warriors unmatched in the galaxy, genetically-engineered by the Emperor himself. The Emperor engineered few of these warriors once the swifter method for creating superhuman warriors using Space Marine gene-seed became more viable.
The martial capabilities of the Adeptus Custodes remain largely unknown at the present time. What is known is that they possess skill beyond even a "normal" member of the Adeptus Astartes. It has been said that the Adeptus Custodes are to a Space Marine what a Space Marine is to a member of the Imperial Guard. They are similar to the Grey Knights, the elite Chamber Militant of the Ordo Malleus branch of the Inquisition, in that both are elite, secret organisations with close ties to the Emperor. Custodes are unique as they have neither a known Primarch nor do they use gene-seed to produce their genetic modifications. They stand a full head taller than a Space Marine and it is said that they were almost the same size as a Primarch. In fact it was said that Constantine Valdor, Captain-General of the Legio Custodes and Chief Custodian to the Emperor during the Horus Hersey, was the same size as the Traitor Primarch Alpharius of the Alpha Legion.
Only 300 Custodes serve as the actual personal guard of the Emperor, called the Emperor's Companions, who guard the Emperor's chambers at all times. These are those Custodes that are privileged enough to be in the Emperor's physical presence. Each unit of Companions is led by a Centurion. It was one such Centurion that led a small group of Companions to meet Alicia Dominica, head of the Brides of the Emperor (later Sisters of Battle) during Goge Vandire's Reign of Blood in the Age of Apostasy during the 36th Millennium.
One of the Companions, Constantine Valdor, was the Captain-General and Chief Custodian during the Horus Heresy. He was the most honoured of all of the Emperor of Mankind's creations. No other being had served the Emperor for as long as he, save for the Imperial Regent of Terra, the potent psyker Malcador the Sigillite. Valdor was a proud and respectful warrior unmatched in his devotion and loyalty to the Emperor. Valdor was ever-present at the Emperor's side, always protecting him from unseen enemies and he saved the Emperor's life innumerable times. Along with Malcador, Valdor was the Emperor's most trusted friend and advisor.
Constantine Valdor was one of the first High Lords of Terra chosen after the end of the Horus Heresy to guide the Imperium forward following the Emperor's internment within the Golden Throne. He also had a close relationship with the Primarchs Rogal Dorn and Leman Russ, although initially Russ and Valdor did not see eye to eye. Dorn was ever-present at the Imperial Palace during the Great Crusade and so Valdor and the Primarch spent much time together. On the other hand, Valdor only earned Russ' respect when the former defeated Horus in a sparring match. The two then served together in combat during the Fall of Prospero when the Custodes and the Space Wolves joined to punish the Thousand Sons Legion of Magnus the Red for his continued use of sorcery despite the edicts of the Council of Nikaea. There is no record of when or how Valdor was killed or if he was even killed at all. He eventually stepped down from the Senatorum Imperialis as a High Lord so that he could continue to devote all of his attention to protecting his beloved Emperor, now encased within the Golden Throne.
However, other accounts of the Custodians' exploits provide a different version of the relationship between the Astartes and Custodes. These records indicate that though the Custodians are slightly larger, on average, than Space Marines, their fighting skills are more or less equal. While Space Marines don their armour ritually and in the presence of their squadmates in order to focus themselves entirely on their martial calling, Custodians arm themselves alone and in silence, reflecting on the varied duties they must perform in the service of their master. As bodyguards, the Custodes not only protect the Emperor's person but also maintain scrupulous surveillance on all the other factions of the Imperium to police their loyalty, infiltrate the households of suspicious individuals among the Imperial nobility, and enter deep cover to test the tightness of their own security within the Imperial Palace, exercises which are called Blood Games. Additionally, these records also confirm that each Custodian's name consists of numerous components typically awarded for feats of arms; Valdor's full name, for instance, is over nine hundred components long.
During the days of the Great Crusade the warriors of the Legio Custodes wore a gold-coloured variant pattern of Power Armour similar to that once worn by the Emperor Himself. These superior warriors can be seen adorned with all manner of lightning bolts, the symbol of the Emperor during the Unification Wars on Terra prior to the use of the Imperial Aquila, as well as aquiline and knightly crosses. Little is known of the wargear and capabilities available to such a secretive organisation, but the visual sources give the impression of immensely ornate armour. Custodians are typically seen with a Guardian Spear which, in the days before the Horus Heresy, was actualy a combination of a Force Halberd with a Bolter. This made the weapon powerful at range as well as deadly effective in close-combat. A Gladius is normally seen at their side, which serves as a Power Weapon. The Custodian Gaius Commodus carried a modified version of the ancient Guardian Spear. It is rumoured that the spear itself was a relic given to him by Constantine Valdor, the Captain-General of the Custodians during the Horus Heresy.
Before the Emperor's internment within the Golden Throne, the Custodes had access to the same wargear as the Legions of the Space Marines. However, since then they have taken a far more limited role in Imperial affairs, and almost never leave Terra and only very rarely leave the Imperial Palace. Accordingly, although the Imperial Palace covers a vast geographic area on Terra, their wargear choices would now be limited to what is necessary to defend the Palace and would be drawn from modified or slightly superior versions of standard Astartes wargear. The traditional colour worn with the golden armour of Adeptus Custodes was red, but following the internment of the Emperor into the Golden Throne after the defeat of Horus upon his flagship during the Battle of Terra, this colour was changed to black. This bleak colour change reflects that the Custodians are now in permanent mourning for failing to protect the Emperor in His hour of need.
In Rogue Trader (1st Edition) the Custodes were the Guardians of the Emperor and the Imperial Palace. They wore simple but effective clothing: boots, leather breeches and a black cloak, their torsos were naked and corded with tattooed muscle, and they carried laser-tipped halberds said to have been built to resemble the traditional Guardian Spears. Their helms were tall and ornate works of art, giving the Custodes a threateningly impassive appearance. They were considered superior to the Astartes of the time, although not as loyal to the Emperor. Clearly, this version of the Custodes has long since been superseded.
- Constantin Valdor - Constantin Valdor was the Chief Custodian and Captain-General of the Legio Custodes during the Great Crusade and the Horus Heresy. Just prior to the outbreak of the Horus Heresy, Valdor was charged by the Emperor to accompany the Primarch Leman Russ of the Space Wolves in bringing the Primarch Magnus the Red of the Thousand Sons to account for breaking promises he had made during the Council of Nikaea which had strictly forbidden the use of sorcery and psychic powers within the Imperium. Valdor, with a contingent of the elite Custodian Guard, fought alongside Russ and the Space Wolves during the Fall of Prospero. He and his forces were responsible for killing at least three of the greatest psykers of the Thousand Sons Legion and routing a force much more numerous than their own. He was also responsible for saving Bjorn the Fell-Handed when his arm was corrupted by the sorcerous powers of a Thousand Sons psyker. Valdor sliced Bjorn's arm off to prevent the corruption from overrunning his body. After Horus' betrayal became known to the Imperium, Valdor was present during the meetings of the Officio Assassinorum's Clade Sires and Siresses. It was Valdor who suggested that an Assassin from each Clade operate as a team to assassinate Horus, rather than act alone as was the standard mode of operation. It is currently unknown what role Valdor played during the rest of the Horus Heresy.
- Aquillion - Aquillion served as the Occuli Imperator, the "Eyes of the Emperor", the Custodian who was assigned to watch over the Primarch Lorgar and his Word Bearers Legion after they were found to have violated the Emperor's trust during the Great Crusade by spreading their belief that the Emperor was a God to newly conquered human worlds. Aquillion and a team of four other Custodians were assigned to the Word Bearers Legion after that Legion's humiliation on the world of Khur and the destruction of that planet's capital city of Monarchia by the Ultramarines Legion on the order of the Emperor. Aquillion used a two-handed Power Sword in combat rather than the standard Guardian Spear. Aquillion and his four-man-team were all eventually slain by the Word Bearers so that they could not inform the Emperor of Lorgar's betrayal. The leader of the daemon-possessed Gal Vorbak, Argel Tal, decapitated Aquillion by biting his head off.
- Brokur - Brokur took part in a "Blood Game" alongside Amon, Haedo and Zerin. Brokur emerged as the runner-up in the contest as he made it to The Hegemon before he was caught. Valdor had not expected anyone to get closer to the Imperial Palace than Brokur, but Amon succeeded in infiltrating the Palace itself.
- Saturnalia Princeps Carthagina - Saturnalia was a member of the Legio Custodes during the Horus Heresy era. He was assigned to the Psi-Hunter Team charged with the task of capturing the Outcast Dead -- the surviving members of a small Astartes honour guard known as the Crusader Host that was stationed on Terra. The fugitive Astartes were members of the Traitor Legions that had sided with Horus in his rebellion against the Emperor during the Horus Heresy. They had been imprisoned in the maximum security prison known as The Vault since they could no longer be trusted, but they managed to stage a break-out and escape. Saturnalia became part of the hunt team led by the Seer Hunter Yasu Nagasena to track down the Outcast Dead in an attempt to regain his honour after letting the Outcast Dead take his prisoner, the Astropath Kai Zulane. During the final battle with the Outcast Dead in the Temple of Woe, Saturnalia managed to kill Subha, a World Eaters Berserker. Subbha's twin, Asubha, attacked him and drove a Custodian Guardian Spear through Saturnalia's head, just as Saturnalia managed to stab Asubha in the heart with his own Guardian Spear.
- Mikaelor Cobernus - Cobernus was a Shield Captain of the Legio Custodians during the 31st Millennium.
- Haedo Emankon - Haedo Emankon took part in one of the many "Blood Games" alongside Amon, Zerin and Brokur. Of the four participants in the contest, Haedo was the third most successful, as he made it to Cebu City before he was caught. Haedo Emankon was later charged by Constantin Valdor to gather incriminating evidence on a member of the government of unified Terra who was suspected of treason against the Emperor alongside Amon Tauromachian.
- Iacus - Iacus was one of the 15 Custodes sent to watch over the Word Bearers Legion who was not assigned to watch over Lorgar with Aquillion. Iacus and his fellow Custodes watched over First Captain Kor Phaeron and First Chaplain Erebus instead. Before the Word Bearers' treachery came to light, Iacus and all his Custodes had fallen in battle alongside the Word Bearers, never knowing of their betrayal.
- Kalhin - Kalhin was one of the four other Custodians assigned to serve under the command of Aquillion to watch over Lorgar and the Word Bearers. While attempting to kill the traitor Cyrene Valantion, Kalhin was shot down by Incaradine, the mechanical Conqueror Primus of the 9th Maniple of the Carthage Cohort of the Legio Cybernetica.
- Amon Tauromachian Leng - Amon Tauromachian was a Custodian who was charged with protecting the Emperor in the early 31st Millennium when Terra began the process of fortification to withstand the coming assault by the Warmaster Horus and his Traitor Legions. Many years before the start of the Heresy, Amon was present at the Council of Nikaea to watch over the trial of Magnus the Red for his use of sorcery. Whilst protecting Kasper Hawser, a skjald of the Space Wolves, Amon was attacked by a minion of Chaos in the disguise of a Thousand Sons Space Marine, but managed to survive the encounter thanks to the efforts of the Astartes of the Space Wolves. After Horus's betrayal reached Terra, Amon was tasked with taking part in the "Blood Games," a rite all Custodians endured and one which set them against the formidable defences of the Imperial Palace in the hope of improving the Custodians' defence of the Emperor through the exposure of flaws in his protection. Following his success in the "Blood Games", Amon Tauromachian and a fellow Custodian Haedo Emankon were sent on a dangerous mission by Constantin Valdor, the Chief Custodian, to gather incriminating evidence on a member of the government of unified Terra who was suspected of treason against the Emperor.
- Nirallus - Nirallus was one of the four other Custodians assigned to serve under the command of Aquillion to watch over Lorgar and the Word Bearers. Amongst his fellow Custodes and the warriors of the Word Bearers, Nirallus was considered the "swordmaster" for his skill with his Custodian Spear. He used this skill to slay Malnor, one of the strongest of the daemon-possessed Gal Vorbak, but was torn apart seconds later by two other members of this warrior elite of the Word Bearers Legion.
- Sagittarus - Sagittarus was a Contemptor Dreadnought of the Custodians during the Horus Heresy era.
- Sythran - Sythran was one of the four other Custodians assigned to serve under the command of Aquillion to watch over Lorgar and the Word Bearers. Before leaving Terra to watch over the Word Bearers Legion for 50 standard years as part of the XVII Legion's punishment for violating the Imperial Truth during the Great Crusade, Sythran swore an oath that he would not speak again until he set foot on Terra once more when this duty was complete. He kept this promise until the moment of his death at the hands of the Gal Vorbak, when he mocked the Word Bearers' Chaplain Xaphen just after killing him for his betrayal of the Emperor.
- Sumant Giri Phalguni Tirtha - Tirtha was a Veteran Custodian, whose name was said to bear at least seventy-six awarded titles. He was one of the gaolers at the high security Imperial prison on Terra known as The Vault. It was not known how Tirtha had come to Khangba Marwu. He bore no obvious injury and was in prime physical condition, but rumour said he had once questioned an order from the Captain-General, Constantin Valdor. Tirthat was charged with the duty of guarding an extremely dangerous group of prisoners known as the Outcast Dead, the remnants of the Astartes honour guard known as the Crusader Host that was stationed on Terra whose parent Legions had turned Traitor and sided with Horus. Tirtha was killed during the Outcast Dead's successful escape attempt from The Vault, when Atharva of the Thousand Sons took control of an elite soldier with a Plasma Gun and made him shoot Tirtha in the stomach.
- Uttam Luna Hesh Udar - During the Horus Heresy era Udar was the lead gaoler of the subterranean high security prison built to detain those individuals deemed hostile to the Emperor and isolated from the world above. Built beneath the Himalayan peak known as Rakaposhi, only the most senior Custodians bothered to use its original name, Khangba Marwu, and for those condemned to its cells, who would never again see the light of day, it had an altogether more prosaic name. They knew it simply as The Vault. Udar was removed from the fighting ranks of the Legio Custodes after being exposed to an Ork bacteriological pathogen, whose aftereffects greatly reduced his reflexive response times to a level below the minimum required for front line service amongst the Custodians. A proud man, he took his removal from the front lines hard, but eventually adapted and took to his new role as a gaoler at The Vault with the same determination and attention to detail that had seen him come the closest to the full infiltration of the Imperial Palace in the Blood Games until his peer Amon Tauromachian Leng bested him. During his tenure, Udar was charged with watching the last remnants of The Outcast Dead -- a small group of Astartes warriors drawn from the Traitor Legions that were the last of the Crusader Host, an honour guard of Space Marines comprised of representatives from each of the 18 Space Marine Legions that served on a rotational basis within the Imperial City outside the Imperial Palace on Terra. Udar met his ultimate fate when The Outcast Dead engineered a successful escape attempt. Udar was slain when he confronted one of the berserker World Eaters Astartes in close combat. The berserker in question, Sergeant Tagore, ripped out a section of Udar's spine through his chest, just as Tagore had promised he would during his confinement.
- Vendatha - Vendatha was one of the four other Custodians assigned to serve under the command of Aquillion to watch over Lorgar and the Word Bearers. Vendatha was used as the 10th sacrifice to summon Ingethel, the daemonic Emissary of the Chaos Gods.
- Zerin - Zerin was a participant in a "Blood Game" alongside Amon, Haedo and Brokur. Out of the four, Zerin did the worst, as he did not even make it into Imperial Territory before he was caught by his fellow Custodians in the city of Irkutsk.
- Codex Imperialis (2nd Edition) by Rick Priestley, pp. 12-13
- Horus Heresy: Collected Visions
- Warhammer 40,000 Rulebook (Digital Edition) (7th Edition), pp. 267, 275, 280, 541
- Warhammer 40,000 Rulebook (6th Edition), pp. 134, 139, 403
- Warhammer 40,000 Rulebook (5th Edition), pp. 105-106
- Warhammer 40,000 Rulebook (4th Edition), pg. 94
- Warhammer 40,000 Rogue Trader (1st Edition), pp. 133-135
- Tales of Heresy (Anthology) edited by Nick Kyme and Lindsey Priestley, "Blood Games" by Dan Abnett
- A Thousand Sons (Novel) by Graham McNeill
- Nemesis (Novel) by James Swallow
- The First Heretic (Novel) by Aaron Dembski-Bowden
- Prospero Burns (Novel) by Dan Abnett
- The Outcast Dead (Novel) by Graham McNeill
- The Imperial Truth (Anthology) edited by Laurie Goulding, "Hands of the Emperor" by Rob Sanders
- Inquisitor (Novel) by Ian Watson